Chicago White Sox

Sox Drawer: How to overcome the Twins

392522.jpg

Sox Drawer: How to overcome the Twins

Sunday, Feb. 20, 2011
Posted 5:54 p.m.

By Chuck Garfien
CSNChicago.com

GLENDALE, Ariz - Minnesota is a lovely state, 12th largest in the U.S., and the original homes of Bob Dylan, Prince and Winona Ryder; not to mention countless moose, elk, bears, ducks, geese, fish, and prairie dogs.

But bring up its baseball team to any warm-blooded White Sox fan, and you will hear John Q. South Sider describe a dark, grisly place - a squad notorious for getting under your skin, quietly and gradually twisting itself around your arteries and large intestine, and staying there for about a decade.

Like cigarettes and alcohol, the Minnesota Twins can be hazardous to your health.

Especially last year, which might have been the equivalent of chain smoking a shelf of Marlboros and drinking a full keg of beer.

We were 5-13 against them, something like that. Matt Thornton remembers way too accurately. They beat us. They had a better team last year. They beat us up. They were the difference in us winning the division last year.

So true. And the Twins did it without their best power hitter, Justin Morneau, for most of the season (concussion) and closer Joe Nathan for all of it (elbow surgery).

But it wasnt a shock to the White Sox. Theyve seen it all before.

No matter who they lose, or go down with injury, they always have guys who step in and fill their spots, Mark Buehrle said. They lose one of the best closers in baseball last year and everyone thinks, There goes their chances. Its going to be us or Detroit. And the next thing you know, they still win the division.

I ask Buehrle how much he detests the Twins, and to put a number on it between 1 and 10. I thought hed say 11, but got an answer I wasnt expecting.

I dont want to put a number on it. Theyre obviously our biggest division rival and theyre the team thats there every year. But thats one of the most respected teams I have for in the league.

Seriously?

A lot of those guys I enjoy playing against. Off the field I like talking to those guys. (Jim) Thome is over there now and says theyre great guys. Theyre not a dirty team, they play baseball right. So theres a lot about the Twins organization that Im a fan of.

And therein lies the problem. The Twins, despite their recent domination over the Sox (winning the Central Division in six of the last nine years) are just too nice for the Sox to hate.

Its like despising a puppy dog or a kitten. They cant do it.

Name a bad guy on the Twins. Think, think, think. There isnt one.

Yeah, Joe Mauer can be annoying for making 35 trips to the pitchers mound, Morneau never cracks a smile, and Jason Kubel is legally obligated to hit a homer off the Sox in every game for the rest of his life, but under that Twins uniform theyre all wholesome, down-to-earth good people. Not a bad apple in there. Having Thome, one of the most gentle, good-hearted human beings on the planet, certainly isnt helping.

But something has to change.

Yes, the White Sox can praise and admire the Twins if they want, but after the drubbing they took last year, its time to keep those compliments to a minimum - or something close to never. You dont hear the Yankees and Red Sox talk in such a glowing way about each other. It just doesnt happen.

Since the White Sox couldnt beat em in 2010, applaud Kenny Williams for going out and atleast trying to sign em.

Hello, Jesse Crain!

If there was a White Sox killer on the Twins, Crain could often be seen holding a baseball and tomorrows obituary. In 49 career innings against the Sox, Crains ERA is 1.45. And last season? Forget about it, the Sox didnt have a chance. In 10 13 innings, Crain gave up three hits, no runs, and had 10 strikeouts.

No surprise Williams swooped in and gave Crain a three-year, 13-million dollar contract.

So Jesse, mi compadre, now that youve joined forces with the White Sox, whats the secret? How have the Twins been able to beat the Sox so many times over the years?

Its just one of those things where we were playing well and we had their number for a while, Crain said. We could go out there and never feel like we were out of it, and just play hard. Hopefully that switches this year.

Crain had three or four teams in hot pursuit of him, including the Red Sox who eventually signed Bobby Jenks. The White Sox entered the picture at the last minute, completing the deal in about 24 hours. Getting a three-year contract played a big part in Crain coming to Chicago, but so did something else.

After they signed Adam Dunn, they already signed (Paul) Konerko and (A.J.) Pierzynski, I knew they were going to have a great team, and Ive played against them for so long that I know that, Crain said. I know how well were going to do, so that was a huge thing. I want to be apart of a team that has a chance to win.

Take that Minnesota.

And maybe the White Sox can take a cue from John Danks, the last Sox pitcher to beat the Twins in a big game, The Blackout of 2008.

We respect the heck out of them, Danks said. But I think we kind of need to lose a little bit of respect and go out there and beat them up a little bit.

Sounds like a good plan to me.

Chuck Garfien hosts White Sox Pregame and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet with former Sox sluggers Frank Thomas and Bill Melton. Follow Chuck @ChuckGarfien on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox news and views.

Yoan Moncada predicts home run is 'first one of many that are coming'

Yoan Moncada predicts home run is 'first one of many that are coming'

Wednesday’s homer may only have been Yoan Moncada’s first, but he predicts plenty more are headed this way.

The White Sox second baseman and baseball’s top prospect crossed off another first when he blasted a solo home run in Wednesday’s loss to the Cubs. Moncada’s 417-foot drive to center field sent Cubs starter Jake Arrieta to the showers, but it wasn’t enough as the White Sox fell to the Cubs 8-3 at Guaranteed Rate Field. The round-tripper came in the 47th plate appearance of Moncada’s young career and 27 th this season.

Acquired from the Red Sox in December, Moncada made his White Sox debut on July 18 and picked up his first hit on Friday.

“It means a lot because it was the first one of many that are coming, and I’m happy,” Moncada said through an interpreter. “It has been a nice week for me.”

Moncada had already walked and struck out looking by the time he faced Arrieta in the seventh inning. The rookie fell behind Arrieta 0-2 in the count but didn’t panic and belted an 0-2 curveball on the outside corner for a solo shot to center. The drive left Moncada’s bat at 105 mph and bounced off the green tin roof in straightaway center.

“He really put a good charge into that ball,” manager Rick Renteria said. “Right off the bat, too. I mean the ball really jumped off his bat. I think it was a breaking ball, too. Stayed on it, really good swing. I think his at-bats in general were pretty good. I think both sides probably got squeezed a little bit, but I think most of the guys put together some pretty good at-bats.”

Moncada has managed to put together a nice little memorabilia package in his first eight days in the big leagues. He received the lineup card from Renteria after he debuted against the Los Angeles Dodgers last Wednesday. Moncada also retrieved his first home run ball and hoped to get the lineup card from Renteria, too.

Arrieta was satisfied with his pitch but not the location. Still, the Cubs pitcher sounded impressed by the swing Moncada put on it and the result.

“It was a good breaking ball, but not in an 0-2 count where a guy’s in swing mode,” Arrieta said. “And he put a good swing on it, especially to hit it to dead center. Pretty balanced swing. You can tell that that guy is going to have a lot of potential. He’s pretty balanced in the box, but the pitch wasn’t supposed to be there.”

The offensive production hasn’t been there as much as Moncada would like early in the season. But, he suspects that will change.

“The results are going to come step by step,” Moncada said. “I’m just trying to enjoy the moment and try to take advantage of the experience and the opportunity to play here. I’m just happy I’m having this opportunity here.”

Turning rebuild lemons into World Series lemonade, Cubs can provide hope, if not a template, for rebuilding White Sox

Turning rebuild lemons into World Series lemonade, Cubs can provide hope, if not a template, for rebuilding White Sox

There’s nothing fun about losing, as the White Sox are finding out first hand.

Wednesday night featured another defeat, this one coming at the hands of the visiting Cubs, the North Siders taking Game 3 of this edition of the Crosstown series by an 8-3 final score.

But should the White Sox need commiserators — and inspiration — they need look no further than the team across the field.

See, the Cubs have been where the White Sox are right now. Last season’s curse-smashing World Series championship was the fruit yielded by a lengthy rebuild on the North Side, one with a similar level of minor league focus and future expectations as the one currently underway on the South Side.

And as the Cubs and their fans well know, major league losing is a part of the process.

The White Sox dropped to 39-59 on Wednesday night, mired in last place in the American League Central. The Cubs spent five straight seasons in fifth place in the National League Central, methodically accruing top prospects with top draft picks.

The kind of nasty outing James Shields turned in Wednesday? The Cubs have seen that before, too. Wearing blue at the time were the likes of Rodrigo Lopez and Chris Volstad and Carlos Silva, the precursors to Shields, who hasn’t made it out of the fifth inning in four of his last six starts. The stories aren’t much different for the rest of the White Sox current rotation, with veterans like Derek Holland and Mike Pelfrey struggling most times out.

The White Sox bats did a whole lot of nothing against Jake Arrieta on Wednesday, silenced offensively the same way the Cubs were repeatedly a few years back, in seasons when guys like Marlon Byrd and Darwin Barney led the North Siders in Wins Above Replacement.

Heck, they even had the same manager. Rick Renteria skippered the Cubs in 2014, the final fifth-place finish before Joe Maddon took over.

“We’re just going to have to keep going,” Renteria said Wednesday night, sounding like an echo of himself when he used to helm the Cubs. “There’s no lamenting or anything. This is the situation we’re in, and I think the guys want the ball every time I give it to them and they want to do a good job. We’re going to try to keep it respectable as much as we can, and in some cases win some ballgames.”

[WHITE SOX TICKETS: Get your seats right here]

Thing is, a look across the diamond Wednesday and once more Thursday in the Crosstown finale at Guaranteed Rate Field will allow the White Sox to see something else they share with those Cubs teams of the recent past: hope.

In the same way White Sox fans are currently gobbling up minor league reports on the organization’s fleet of highly ranked prospects, Cubs fans did that, too. They did it with Kris Bryant and Addison Russell. White Sox fans are doing it with Michael Kopech and Reynaldo Lopez. They’ll soon do it with Luis Robert and, a former Cubs prospect, Eloy Jimenez.

Yoan Moncada, the No. 1 prospect in baseball bringing Bryant-like hype to the South Side, gave White Sox fans plenty to smile about Wednesday night, smoking a 0-2 pitch from Arrieta over the center-field fence for his first career home run.

If you need a glimpse into the future of the White Sox, at what things should look like when the rebuild reaches its apex, go watch Moncada’s home run again. And again.

While the Cubs and their World Series rings own bragging rights that stand above all others, the White Sox can also look into the third-base dugout and know they’re going about things differently — and perhaps even better — than their North Side counterparts did.

While Theo Epstein built his farm system with much-hyped draft picks (in addition to a couple extremely meaningful trades) over the years, Rick Hahn has built his in what has seemed like one fell swoop. The lightning-fast pace of the White Sox rebuild could make the five years of fifth-place finishes the Cubs experienced a non-factor on the South Side. Hahn has built arguably baseball’s best farm system in a matter of months, trading All-Star caliber big leaguers to stockpile highly touted minor leaguers and acquiring other prospects through trades and the draft who provide depth to the system.

“It’s improved,” Hahn said of the depth of his farm system before Wednesday’s game. “It has absolutely been a goal from the start, not just a matter of getting as much potential impact talent as we can but trying to set up layer upon layer of that talent, trying to get to the point when inevitably some of these guys don’t develop the way everyone has projected them to develop or an injury occurs that we have other options, that we have guys that perhaps developed a little more quickly or improved beyond what we projected as their ceiling. And the only way you get there is by having a critical mass of prospect depth.

“I would say that while we are pleased with the strides we’ve made in the last year or nine months, however long you want to draw the line, we know we still have work to do. We know we’re going to have a really important draft in 2018 and before that, another few days before this (trade) deadline and then some offseason maneuvering to take place.”

The Cubs have forever been a symbol of hope for their fans, a team that no matter how sorry the finish would always have expectations and a new chance every spring.

Though White Sox fans are unlikely to embrace the team on the other side of town, they’d be well served to take a step back and look at what has happened there. Because the Cubs’ successful rebuild, one that ended in a World Series title, could provide hope for White Sox fans, too.